Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Western Sanctions have Driven Down Movie Theater Attendance More than Pandemic Did

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine, one out of every three theaters in Russia has closed and more are on the brink of doing so, the result of sanctions that have limited the showing of Western blockbusters. This decline in attendance and the consequent rise in bankruptcies is far greater in this sector than was true during the pandemic.

            Rosbalt journalist Anzhela Novoseltseva says that Russian movie theaters depend on Western and primarily American films for profits. With the producers of such films now refusing to send them to Russia, the theaters there are suffering despite efforts to boost Russian films and those from elsewhere (rosbalt.ru/piter/2022/07/27/1967868.html).

            Western films in the past typically brought theaters 70 to 90 percent of their profits because they attracted larger audiences, but fewer of them are being shown and profits are down. Before the pandemic, about 70 percent of films shown in Russian movie houses were from abroad; now, only 30 to 40 percent are, she reports.

            As a result, Novoseltseva says, “attendance at movie theaters today has fallen much more than during the severe pandemic years, from which the branch had only just begun to emerge.” Attendance so far this year is down 40 percent and profits down 34 percent, but both are projected to fall by 70 percent by year’s end.

            The Russian government has countered by increasing subsidies to individual theaters and by pledging to invest more than five billion rubles (70 million US dollars) in the production of new films. But regional and local authorities don’t have enough money to make these subsidies great enough to help much, and any new Russian films will take a year or more to produce.

            Consequently, while theaters in many countries are suffering because viewers are taking advantage of cable and Internet opportunities, in Russia, they are suffering far more because on top of those factors, sanctions are proving highly effective in this area. 



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